I am Time Magazine’s Person of the Year!

Greetings during the holiday season!

It wasn’t easy getting online the past two days as Singapore’s Internet connections have been pretty badly affected by the earthquake off Taiwan. What happened was that on 27 Dec, (yes, I know 27 Dec is one day after 26 Dec, the day of the Tsunami two years ago),  the earthquake off Taiwan destroyed underwater cables that linked much of Asia’s access to the cyberhighways of the world. It just goes to show how vulnerable the digital world is. For all that technology we have created, we are still very much dependent on the physical world (like the hardware and cables!) and we are no match for Mother Nature. Many online operations have also had to go manual (with the human touch!) Also, this is another example of the consequence of globalisation?

On to better news – if you didn’t already know, I have been named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year! And you have, too! 

If you look closely at the cover, on the screen of the computer, is a mirror, so you are actually looking at yourself as Person of the Year! Cool, right? Time decided to honour the common man, yes, that’s you and me, as we control the Information Age! According to the cover story, “in 2006, the World Wide Web became a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter…it’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.”

And for “seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2006 is you” and me! 

We are now co-creators of the digital world! Power to the Everyman!

“This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person. It’s a chance for people to look at a computer screen and really, genuinely wonder who’s out there looking back at them.”

So, as we continue to improve in our technologies, and as the world gets increasingly ‘technologised’, let us remember that we are still very much human, and continue to make connections in the digital world and seek new kinds of understanding, and forge new ways of harnessing the powers of new technologies.

Have a blogging good year ahead!

Best wishes for a happy and blessed 2007! 

This blogger is taking a break for Christmas! Happy Christmas!

Hi, thought I should let you, my dear reader, know that I’ll be taking break so you won’t be reading any new blog posts in the coming week. I’ll be back blogging after Christmas, so till then, have a happy and blessed Christmas!

I’m giving the current blog template a rest too and giving the blog a more appropriate visual treatment for the season, thanks to the timely introduction of a new wordpress template!


The canal blogger in Singapore: Redefining ‘blogger’ and ‘blogging’?

An article in today’s papers, entitled “Canal Blogger” caught my eye. What is a canal blogger? Someone who blogs by one of Singapore’s many canals?

Upon closer reading, I realised that it was an article about a mystery teenager who posted (as in pasted) pieces of her journal entries (ie hardcopies of text) on a wall next to the canal at Bedok Reservoir. A psychologist who was interviewed said that this could be a cry for help.

What I’m keen to focus on here is the use of the term ‘blogger’ in this case. It seems that the term ‘blog’ is taken to be synonymous with journal entries that many teens write in their blogs. The article also goes on to compare the use of blogs to share views and to vent, as opposed to the strategy of the canal ‘blogger’ who chooses to share her life on pieces of paper posted on the wall beside a canal.

Of course, such a definition is a pretty limited and limiting one. I’m sure by now many of us know that blogs do go beyond personal diary and journal rantings.

In any case, it’s interesting how the term ‘blog’ has entered mainstream vocabulary and is used to redefine conventional (hardcopy) writing, as it, in turn, is being redefined.

Video of violent stabbing in Singapore posted on Youtube

The hot news these two days is the video a woman being stabbed in the streets of Singapore being posted on Youtube. When I first saw the article, I thought it was another incident of happy slapping that was the sick fashion in the UK last year.

 The difference is that in happy slapping, the criminals themselves film the act and then perversely upload it and share it with others. In this case, it was someone who was witness to the crime who filmed the incident. But it does make you wonder if that witness is any less guilty. Afterall, instead of calling the cops, he chose to film it. What makes it worse is that not only did he not come to the aid of the victim, he did not hand the film over to the cops to help them in their investigations. 

The article stated: WHOEVER filmed this video, and posted it on the Web, knew the contents would be shocking, perhaps revolting.” The blogger Locksley in his online journal, even warned readers that the video would be pretty graphic!

Despite that forewarning or perhaps it was precisely because of that warning, the footage that lasts two minutes and 22 seconds showing Chinese National Zhu Jinfeng, 26, stabbing his ex-girlfriend, Ms Lou Yanwa, 24, on a pavement in Bukit Batok West Avenue 6 has been viewed multiple times. (According to the newspaper article, “as of Friday, it has had 10,000 viewers and the clip is still being circulated via email”.)

The incident happened on 24 August this year, so it’s strange that the video has only been posted recently, on Nov 28, by someone using the name “ramenory”. The criminal has been jailed and his victim is in recovery. One can only imagine how such a visual reminder of the traumatic episode can affect her healing process. She’d probably be enraged how someone could film the episode and yet not come to her aid!

Perhaps, “ramenory” had an educational purpose in posting the video. Some readers commented that the video was “unusual” and “thought-provoking” and made you question how safe Singapore streets are. Some even tried to use it as social commentary on Singaporeans, why did they not help (like the cameraman), why did they just gawk (like the cameraman, or wait, he didn’t just gawk, he actually had the presence of mind to film the event to educate Singaporeans on social responsibility! Gasp! He actually thught he was being a citizen journalist!) Hm…the shock factor is definitely there but surely there are other less sensational and less gruesome ways to educate the Singapore public.

According to media law and ethics expert Assistant Professor Mark Cenite, “with the prevalence of blogs, video hosting sites online and camera phone technology, Singaporeans will see more of such videos that show crime evidence…if there is nothing that the community can learn from seeing the crime, then it would be in poor taste to show it as it would be violation of the victims’ privacy.”

According to  lawyer Adrian Tan who specialises in intellectual property and information technology law, “the authorities can take action if online videos are found to be offensive or graphic in nature, because they can be classified as a “film” under the Films Act…[and] people who record videos and distribute them over the Internet are in effect distributing uncensored film. This could land them a fine of up to $40,000, or up to six months in prison.” This is cold comfort to Ms Lou indeed.

One can only hope that users of new technology and new media use the new powers afforded by the new media and technologies responsibly.

Further comments on the ‘Starhub employee and Youtube’ blog posting

Just a few days ago, I posted a blog entry about Terence Tan, Starhub employee who was fired as a video of him goofing around in the office was posted on Youtube.

Chan Hoi San, Head of Human Resource at Starhub wrote a letter,”Temp wasn’t a Starhub employee”  to The New Paper (a Singapore tabloid) to clarify that Mr Terence Tan, key protagonist in the Starhub-Youtube saga that spawned so many blog entries and comments amongst bloggers in Singapore was actually not a Starhub employee at all.

He was “a temporary staff member engaged by an appointed manpower agency assigned to Starhub to promote and sell Starhub products and services to customers”.  Hm…so he was hired by an employment agency whose name we know not, to work for Starhub, so technically, he was no employee of Starhub, and was in fact employed by the un-named agency. So he was told to wear the Starhub uniform and asked to sell Starhub products and services to Starhub customers, both current and potential ones, but is not a Starhub employee. Chan reinforced, “He was never an employee of Starhub”. Well, talk about technicality! But of course, who would blame Starhub for taking pains to clarify this technicality. Afterall, any hint of bad publicity could break a company in today’s competitive and often fickle consumer market. (But Dolly Parton would disagree as she once so famously said “There is no such thing as baa-ad publicity” when asked to comment on the use of her name for the cloned sheep Dolly, based on their mammary connection! But I digress…)

Starhub’s contention is that the Youtube video of a (quote) *Starhub employee* (unquote) horsing around gave the public the wrong and negative impression of Starhub employees, and hence did not give an accurate reflection of the workers in the company. But of course, as they were not the Terence Tan’s employers and so did not fire him. They merely asked the un-named agency to do so

The added info provided by Chan made me realise that even traditional media such as the press have not always investigated the incident thoroughly before printing their stories. Perhaps the conventional media have also been swept up by the speed brought on my new media such as online press articles and blogs to post the latest info, so much so that at times, some of the investigative processes the conventional media is known for, are sacrificed as well.  

It’s also a good reminder for bloggers to also take care to post accurate information. That said, of course, many bloggers also rely on traditional media for some of the info. Bloggers need to be aware that such info comes mediated. That info could also sometimes be inaccurate. If that is the case, then bloggers also need to inform their readers of any new info that surfaces on an issue they have blogged about, so that the readers get an info that is as updated and as accurate as possible.

Free Blogging lessons for bloggers

So much has been said about the need for good writing in blogs. I came across some very useful materials for the novice blogger or perhaps not so new blogger who may need some “refresher lessons” on blogging.

I hope you will find the following useful:

 How to be a good blogger

 Weblogs 101

6 tips for beginning bloggers

Free online course: Blogging for beginners (You will need to sign up for this course. Over five days, you will be sent a lesson a day and the whole course covers the basic essentials of blogging.)

StarHub employee in Singapore gets fired after boss sees YouTube video of him goofing off at the office

Today’s local news talks about a StarHub employee being fired for goofing around while at work: Report: Singapore firm fires worker for YouTube videos of “horsing around” in office . Now, the thing is it’s likely that any young temp worker will be goofing around on the job at some point or other  (not that I’m saying that’s okay…) but what the real issue is is that he got caught, and he got caught big time!

The employee, Terence Tan, and his colleagues were filmed playing around the office and that video was uploaded to YouTube. When his employer found out, he was given a lecture and of course he was ordered to take down the clip. He was also fired for “tainting Starhub’s image and reputation”.

This is not unlike the case I mentioned in my previous posting about the American air stewardess who was fired as she had posted pictures of herself in her work uniform at a party. The airline company thought that she had tarnished the company’s image and used her work outfit in an unprofessional way. 

Not too long ago, there were some YouTube videos posted of our NS boys horsing around in camp, and there was some reaction by the public about how they had brought disrespect to the army uniform. Of course, it goes without saying that while looking at them joking around and playing the fool, one wonders how they can be taken seriously and trusted to protect the country!    

It can be a pretty fine line between what’s acceptable and what’s not, as new media becomes even more pervasive, and both employees and employers alike have to tread carefully as the lines get drawn up. 

More on regulating blogs and bloggers in Singapore

In yesterday’s post, I shared on the article in Today by Dharmendra Yadav about plans in China and Malaysia to regulate blogs. In today’s Today (hee, couldn’t resist that again), a reader, Chia Hern Keng wrote in: Blogs are market-driven, sharing that regulation goes against the grain of the “open discourse” offered by the Web and which is something that appeals to bloggers in the first place. 

Chia does have a point there. One of the reasons why blogs are so popular in China is that many turn to them for views and information they find wanting in mainstream media. Blogs, now seen as part of citizen journalism, offer that space for “open discourse” Chia talks about.

However, inspite of the relatively free space in cyberworld, there is need for some form of control. The key question is control of what and by what or by whom? As the blogosphere matures, it’s inevitable that a natural evolving of blog values will occur, and netiquette and blogtiquette (for want of a better word) would surface.

Of course there has been some nudging by the law as in the case of the racist bloggers in Singapore, but wasn’t the one who blew the whistle on Wee Shu Min a blogger too?

Now, Chia mentions another interesting thing about the self-regulation of bloggers. How this works is that bloggers need to write well and respect their readers in order to retain their readers. (Quite market demand and supply, really.) Despite what many say about writing for self-expression, bloggers want an audience, they need an audience. Thus, if a blogger puts off his readers, sooner or later, that blog will close. That, in a way, is self-regulation.

Surprisingly, or perhaps, NOT surprisingly, the Singapore government is trying to engage bloggers in discussion as it recognises the power of blogs and bloggers in disseminating information and perspectives: Bloggers wanted, as the Government ‘Reaches’ out . Interestingly, this article appeared in Today today too. According to the article, the revamped Feedback Unit’s REACH’s website will launch blogs early next year. Currently, there are 7200 registered users, but only 10 of them have signed up to blog on the site.

Hm…how successful the unit is in engaging more bloggers, as it tries to bridge the mainstream and the not-so mainstream discourses in Singapore remains to be seen.

Is it time to regulate blogs and bloggers?

An article appeared in Today yesterday (hee I couldn’t resist that)  entitled: “time for bloggers to self-regulate” in response to 2 pieces of news rocking the international blogosphere recently.

One is the recent news about China wanting the Chinese netizens to submit real names and ID card numbers when registering for a blog account. While this can be seen as a way to ensure that netizens are responsible bloggers who think carefully before they blog, it can also be seen as a strong signal for censorship. Big Brother is watching!

The other piece of news is Malaysia’s plans to impose Internet laws to control the blogosphere.

The Today article can be seen as a way of preempting Singapore’s control of the blogosphere by asking bloggers to self regulate. Instead of having a state-controlled blogosphere, it’s better if bloggers abide by some basic rules that by now, would and should have evolved.

Already, some companies such as IBM have devloped their own codes of conduct for employee bloggers. There are also many other samples of corporate blogging rules  available on the Web.

Bloggers could also take the cue from the regulations used by conventional media. These of course include the need to be responsible and accurate when uploading information. Only then can blogs be taken seriously as a new form of media.

Perhaps it’s time bloggers in Singapore get a little bit more organised and evolve a workable set of regulations that would serve their blogging needs.

Blog Ghosts?

With Christmas round the corner, I was reminded about Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and how the character Scrooge was made to to look into his past by the Ghost of Christmas past! Now, before you think that I’ve gone crazy, there is a point I would like to make about blogging! Please be patient. There is a connection.

In my previous postings, I mentioned that blogs are repositories of information, and entries can stay in the blogosphere in the archives and they can stay there practically forever.

Now, do you think that the ghosts of your blogs past may come back to haunt you? Afterall, blogging is in a way for posterity. What you write about, what you rant about today, will stay there, even if you don’t consciously remember it anymore. 

Could what you write today come back to haunt you five years down the road? What do I mean by that? Let’s say you write something unkind or unsavoury in your blog post, and a potential employer comes across it-do you think he’ll use that information against you?

Perhaps there’s no need to look that far back, or even that far forward for that matter. In more recent times, there have already been cases reported of how people have been fired due to negative things they have said about their bosses or companies in their blogs. And given that many people see blogs as being personal journals through which they sometimes bare their innermost thoughts to the gigantic blogospehere, would blogs be then used as a new investigative resource? In a court case currently tried in Singapore, a boy’s blog entry was used as part of evidence for discussion in court!

One more thing, given that we leave digital footprints where we go online, would you be proud of where you have been? Would you be proud to reveal your digital whereabouts to potential future empoyers, colleagues, friends? 

Does that mean we need to be careful of what we say in our blogs? I think the best guiding rule is to let your conscience be your guide. It should help you to be responsible for your thoughts, words and actions.